INDEPENDENCE, Minn. –Kyle Rudolph is chasing some significant records on the football field, but he recently teamed up with a number of celebrities to set a record of a different kind.
More than 230 golfers attended the Champions for Children Celebrity Golf Tournament at Windsong Farm Golf Club on Monday. The attendance was an all-time high since the tournament was first hosted in 2009 by former Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson.
Rudolph has been a part of the event over the past seven years and took over hosting this year when it was passed from Hutchinson, to former Vikings center John Sullivan, and now to Rudolph.
All proceeds from the tournament directly benefited Kyle Rudolph's End Zone. The tight end has been fundraising for more than a year for the state-of-the-art, 2,700-square-foot play space that is scheduled to open at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital this fall.
"We are fully funded for the build-out, and now it's just about maintaining it," said Rudolph who, along with his wife Jordan, has hosted a number of fundraising events. "All of the unique things that we'll continue to host for years to come will continue to just [go toward] upkeep and programming. I want to make sure that in four or five years when I take my [twin daughters] down there and we visit the kids, that it still has the latest and greatest technology, that it's not outdated."
Rudolph co-hosted the tournament with Minnesota Wild left wing Jason Zucker. The two Minnesota athletes and their wives connected through Tucker, a young boy receiving treatment at the children's hospital who unfortunately passed away from a rare bone cancer.
"We've tried to get really involved through [Tucker] and his family, and it was a huge part of our lives," Zucker said. "We were great friends with him and his family, so for us to be able to give back to the hospital that did so much to help him was a big thing for us."
Zucker and his wife, Carly, donated a large amount of money to Rudolph's project and created a customized corner of the End Zone called "Team Tucker's Locker."
"For us to be able to do that and have our own little hockey aspect to his End Zone is really fun for us," Zucker said. "We're excited about that."
Monday's tournament bridged more names than just the Vikings and Wild, however.
Zucker and Rudolph teamed up with a number of celebrities from across the Twin Cities and beyond, including singer/songwriter Darius Rucker, Bar Stool Sports' "El Presidente" Dave Portnoy, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver and Minnesota native Larry Fitzgerald, and Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns.
More than 230 golfers attended the Champions for Children Celebrity Golf Tournament at Windsong Farm Golf Club on Monday. The attendance was an all-time high since it was hosted in 2009 by former Viking Steve Hutchinson.
Rucker, who actively supports St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, said he didn't hesitate to fly in for the charity event.
He added that he didn't find the large turnout surprising.
"Kyle's that kind of guy," Rucker said. "He's got so many friends in different areas, and he brought them all together for this. That's what makes these events special – you get to raise a lot of money while having fun with your friends."
Portnoy echoed Rucker's sentiments, saying the annual golf classic was an event that he and the Barstool Sports crew was happy to support.
Interestingly enough, Portnoy was a childhood Vikings fan long before Barstool Sports began its relationship with Rudolph.
"I thought their helmets looked like candy when I was growing up, so I was really into them," Portnoy said with a laugh. "Anthony Carter was the first pro jersey I ever bought."
Although Portnoy now identifies as a fan of an East Coast team, he's proud to partner with Rudolph in the community.
"He's a great guy, all the way," Portnoy said. "He's very typical to kind of a Barstool guy – very down to earth, very calm and obviously does a ton of work with the community in Minnesota. It's fun – we're glad to be here."
Rudolph said he was overwhelmed at the generosity of so many friends and teammates with their time and financial support.
He was joined on the course by former Vikings linebackers Ben Leber and Chad Greenway in addition to wide receiver Adam Thielen, who was a standout golfer at Detroit Lakes High School.
Thielen expressed excitement over the great golfing weather and an even better cause.
"I think it's a good opportunity for us as players to use that time – we have a lot more time [in the offseason], and [it's important] to be able to use that to give back," Thielen said. "And it's obviously great that Kyle's giving his time. This takes a lot to put on, and I'm just glad to be a part of it."
The scramble-style tournament featured 47 celebrities and lasted late into the day.
Towns demonstrated Monday that he's gifted both on the basketball court and on the green. He, along with Vault Aviation, finished the tournament in first place. While his competitive nature enjoyed the victory, Towns emphasized that the day's focus was on far bigger things.
The 21-year-old said he was honored to be invited by Rudolph to help support such an important cause and appreciates his friendship. Towns and Rudolph have bonded over the past couple of years through their passion for their respective sports and various community activities.
"It's more like a brotherhood," Towns said. "It's amazing what we do as athletes here in Minnesota, and I'm just glad to be a part of the event."
Added Towns: "It takes more to do something off the court than on it."
Nick Engbloom, Senior Development Officer at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital, said he was thrilled with the participation and passion that showed up.
The hospital recently got clearance from Mortenson Construction to start building Rudolph's End Zone, and Engbloom said that seeing so many people come together to continue raising support furthered the impact the space will have.
"This thing is state-of-the-art, unlike anything in the country," Engbloom said. "It's going to be a game-changer.
"It comes back from the long history with the Minnesota Vikings, more than 35 years," Engbloom continued. "They've kind of instilled this 'giving-back' mentality in the players, and to watch them step up, to see Kyle take over Steve's events and then do his own events … it just shows that he cares. It's not just about him as a celebrity – it's about the difference he can make in this community where he plays and where he lives."